Zhang Hongtu


Zhang Hongtu
b. 1943, Pingliang, Gansu
Painter, conceptual artist
The art of Zhang Hongtu, a member of the Hui nationality, is among the most widely disseminated of all contemporary Chinese artists outside of China. His personal experience and engagement with socialist realism, traditional Chinese art and contemporary Western art lend his imagery a distinctive insight into the cultural boundaries and peculiarities inherent in both Chinese and Western art. He received a BFA from the Central Academy of Arts and Crafts (Gongyi meishu xueyuan), where he studied between 1964 and 1969. Thereafter he was ‘sent down’ to ‘The Contemporaries’ (Tongdairen), an artist group active in Beijing in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Later, he emigrated to the United States and has lived in New York City since 1982.
Among his most influential artworks are a series of humorous and sometimes disturbing piecesexploring Mao’s image in the Chinese and Western psyche. Beginning with the Quaker Oats Mao series in 1987, his subsequent explorations include the Last Banquet (1989), which borrows from Da Vinci’s Last Supper to evoke Mao’s virtual deification among disciples, who made themselves in his image. The creation of satirical and imaginary artworks in Christie’s Catalogue Pages began in 1998 as a parody of the values and conventions of Chinese and Western art. Repainting Shanshui, begun in 1998, is a series of oil paintings based on compositions of Chinese landscape paintings executed in the styles of various European Impressionists.
The series remains faithful to literati philosophy regarding copying and the mastery of brush technique, while exploring the nature of modernism and the artistic encounter between China and the West. His work may be found in many private and public collections and exhibitions, including the Princeton University Art Museum, the Bronx Museum of Art, the Yale-China Association, and the Guangzhou Triennial.
Dal Lago, Francesca (1999). ‘Personal Mao: Reshaping an Icon in Contemporary Chinese Art’. The Art Journal 58:46–59.
Hay, Jonathan (1994). ‘Zhang Hongtu/Hongtu Zhang: An Interview’. In John Hay (ed.), Boundaries in China. London: Reaktion Books, 281–300.
Perkins, Morgan (2003). ‘The Supple Vision of Zhang Hongtu’. In Icons and Innovations: The Cross-Cultural Art of Zhang Hongtu (exhibition catalogue). New York: Roland Gibson Gallery, State University of New York, Potsdam, 4–6.
Wu, Hung (1999). ‘Nothing Beyond the Gate’. In idem (ed.), Transience: Chinese Experimental Art at the End of the Twentieth Century. Chicago: David and Alfred Smart Museum of Art, University of Chicago, 43–8.
Zhang Hongtu’s website:www.momao.com
MORGAN PERKINS

Encyclopedia of contemporary Chinese culture. . 2011.

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